Camping in South Hams Devon on our Family Road Trip.

August 13, 2020
Camping in South Hams Devon

We have just arrived back home with a mountain of laundry and a ton of happy memories from our summer holidays. We decided to take a family road trip to the South West starting with camping in the South Hams Devon. The first part of our holiday is in a location we know really well and one that we love to visit. Before I take you to our camping trip I will just run through a bit of how we planned our road trip.

Planning a Road Trip

Most years we head to the South Hams as we just love the area, beaches and we have family down there we can visit. This year being Covid-19 year we were prepared not to have a holiday. We decided to risk planing a staycation in case the green light was given for UK tourists. We also figured planning a holiday this way would be a safer option to take right now.

Camping trip in the South Hams Devon with a map of England planning the road trip

The journey

We live in York and so it is a real trek down to Devon with a young family. We tend to beat the summer getaway traffic by setting off at 4am. We then arrive at our destination mid morning and always find this the best way of travelling. We like to stop off along the way usually at one North Midlands services for a driver coffee stop and then at the family friendly Gloucester services to get the kids changed out of their pjs and to eat breakfast before we head down into the South West area.

Map of Devon and Cornwall with a road trip route mapped out

The return journey is a little harder to organise as we can’t set off at 4am from a campsite. This year we decided against a day in the car travelling and instead we camped our way back home in stages. I will take you through our return journey home in part two of our road trip as we make the journey home from South West Cornwall.

I often get asked for car travelling tips with our large family. By setting off very early they usually sleep a good chunk of the journey. We find games such as eye spy can encourage arguments with our brood so sometimes we brave it and other times we use audiobooks. This post offers 20 audiobook suggestions for kids of all ages.

Research the sites

A view from Seaview campsite in Devon
Seaview Campsite

I firstly find campsites by researching online. I like to google hidden gem campsites, quiet family campsites and check the Cool Camping guide to read reviews. Whatever your criteria be it a pool, a play park or on-site cafe there is a campsite for everyone to be found online.

I spent a long time researching campsites for part 2 of our road trip to Cornwall but for camping in the South Hams in Devon it was pretty easy to decide. We’re experienced campers in this location after staying here over a number of years as it’s just such a good family UK staycation destination.

These are our preferred sites that we choose from and that form our base for holidaying in the South Hams.

Seaview Campsite Slapton – This site is one we have visited previously and enjoyed. They had covid-19 measures in place and their toilet/shower facilities were open for use. This site is located high up above the very beautiful Slapton and Torcross bay. We love it here because it’s a very basic site which is our preferred criteria. With a distant sea view over the rolling hills and 2 large fields for campers to spread out it’s a peaceful haven and lovely to sit and enjoy a quiet morning cuppa before the kids awake. Facilities include-

Slapton Sands – This site we have stayed at previously. It’s a camping and caravanning club site so comes with more facilities. We have previously enjoyed this site but on our last stay there we found it a little bit busy for our liking so we now book Seaview. It is however in a good location being a short walk away from the sea and if you are looking for a slightly more sociable site this would suit.

Beryl’s Campsite – This campsite near Beesands is always fully booked. We hope to visit one day as it looks like our kind of quiet secluded spot. It’s also in a great location close to a quieter beach similar to Torcross but also close enough to visit coastal towns and attractions. I hope I can one day update this page with some details on our stay here!

Camping Tips

A tent and caravan in a field in Devon

We have been camping for many years now. We camp with our 5m bell tent. Our must-have essentials include self inflating mattresses, we have a Berghaus 10cm thick double mattress which is perfect for us plus a bed invader. The older children have self inflating 5cm mattresses and the younger ones are still on airbeds for now. We like to take or own pillows and our double duvet. The kids have winter tog sleeping bags to keep them warm with their thermal pjs ( I find onesies awkward for younger ones using the toilets).

I have a camping tips post that will also help give you some sound camping tips. This year we also recommend purchasing a small camping burner rather than a larger camp cooker and taking pop up storage bags for coats and shoes etc and as always we love re-using our Ikea bags for beach and shower bags.

South Hams Location

A view from Salcombe harbour with 3 children looking at boats


A beach  in South Hams
Mill Bay Beach

The reason we love staying in the South Hams in the Slapton / Torcross area is because we get to stay in a peaceful campsite and visit the quieter coastline at Torcross, including our favourite seaside cafe, Sea Breeze.

Staying in the quieter spots means we have to get organised early morning and take short journeys through the tiny Devonshire country lanes visting our favourite beaches and Dartmouth and Salcombe.

The beaches around the South Hams are perfect for taking children to. One of our favourite beaches is Mill Bay at East Portlemouth. This beach has a small tributary stream running alongside the beach making it a perfectly safe place for children to dig, build dams and get sandy wet bottoms. The beach is also a mecca for small motor boats, sail boats and paddle boards so there is plenty to see and you could always hire a boat and join in on the water. This beach also makes for some great snorkelling and coasteering for the more adventurous family members. The NT car park is currently closed so there is parking at the top of East Portlemouth with a mile (ish) walk down the lane or a woodland path from Gara Rock carpark. It is worth getting there early in the morning or later in the day to get a parking space. There are toilets half way down the East Portlemouth beach lane at a small cafe by the river taxi point.

Camping in South Hams Devon a picture of 2 kids on Bantham Beach

A little further away from Slapton is Bantham beach. This beach is probably our favourite family beach in the UK. The kids get to have surf lessons by Bantham surf academy and surf and paddleboard hire for when you know how to handle the waves.

A boy surfing at Bantham Beach

The surf is perfect for beginners and intermediates and when the tide is out there is also a great pool of water which is perfect for little ones to swim in. When they’re not busy swimming they can play around a small rockpool area. The car park is around £8.50 for the day and has a toilet block and the benefit of coffee, pizza and ice cream vans that all get our thumbs up! If you get a little bored of sitting on the beach you can walk the S.West coastal path around the area. This beach also has great views towards Bigbury on sea and the famous Agatha Christie hotel on Burgh Island which is only accessible by sea tractor.

There are plenty of other beaches in the area such as Blackpool sands, Beesands, Thurlestone, Hope Cove and Bigbury on Sea.

For days you want to explore away from the beach you can take a wander around Salcombe. We aways love to visit to watch some of the yachting, sometimes do some shopping, the girls have their holiday hair braid and we get takeout fish and chips. We usually go to Salcombe via the river taxi at East Portlemouth, this is a bit of a family holiday tradition. Salcombe is also home to Overbecks National Trust gardens which we have never visited but have admired from across the estuary and has a few coastal points that are worth visiting.

Camping in South Hams Devon with a view of Salcombe estuary
Salcombe Estuary – East Portlemouth

Dartmouth is also worth a visit. You can hop on the car ferry and visit Coleton Fishacre house and gardens and a few other local sites. Dartmouth also is home to some really good boat and steam train trips that take you on a wonderful tour of the local coastline. Or alternatively wander around Dartmouth and maybe try out some crabbing in the harbour.

There are also many attractions around Torquay and Paignton which is about an hours drive or you could always head inland and take a trip to Dartmoor. For us we prefer being on these local South Hams beaches with a picnic and an ice cream or two!

I hope that you have some ideas for holidaying and camping in the South Hams Devon and that you too can plan an exciting family road trip. Do look out for part two on our road trip which covers holidaying in South East and South West Cornwall and our return journey stops.

2 responses to “Camping in South Hams Devon on our Family Road Trip.”

  1. Loved reading about your trip Charlotte. I used to (and still do) love leaving the house really early in the morning to set off on a road trip. It is exciting watching the sun come up and travelling in pj’s then stopping for breakfast!
    Also, a great idea breaking up the journey home with different stop offs. X

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